In many parts of the U.S., there is a coal-ash disposal operation just waiting for some local environmental reporter to come along and write a probing story about it. The nearly unregulated ash, slag, and sludge from coal-burning electric utilities contains a range of heavy metals that can pollute water, and occasionally — as it did in Kingston, TN, in Dec. 2008 — bury people's houses.
Often pushing against electric utilities' desire for secrecy, EPA and others have made much information about coal-ash disposal available to the public (and media). The WatchDog has noted this piecemeal in previous issues. Here's a roundup of some of the major sources of raw information now available to reporters.
- List of 49 High-Hazard Coal-Ash Ponds, EPA.
- Coal-Ash Impoundment Structural Integrity Reports (for 43 sites), EPA/Contractors.
- Coal-Ash Survey Results (individual written responses from 219 facilities and 584 surface impoundments and similar management units).
- Coal Mining and Processing Waste — Location and Information System (run by a consortium).
- A list of further data resources for investigating coal-ash handling and disposal facilities is available in the WatchDog of June 17, 2009. This article explains, for example, how to look up the wastewater discharge permit and violation record for coal-ash facilities.